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Wielding a Different Kind of Wood

Published on January 07, 2015

Sarah Rennicke

The So Cal Catch, part of the FCA sport-specific ministry, recently finished their second baseball season in the California Collegiate League, which provides high-level talent with top players around the country. Along with playing a 50-game schedule, the team conducted youth camps, and, this summer, added a trip south of the border to wield wood in another avenue. It was there the team performed its greatest exhibition, not in front of a crowd of thousands, but on a dusty street for a family of six.

Catch GM Ben Orr handing the keys to the father.

Partnering with Baja Christian Ministries, an organization focused on building houses and lives for Jesus, the team went to Tecate, Mexico, and constructed a home for a deserving family. The build included 30 workers and took 7.5 hours.

Catch general manager Ben Orr explained the team aims to find the best twenty eight Christian baseball players in the nation, compete and represent the Lord well, and develop relationships and bonds. He saw the players gel quickly this summer and attributes much of it to their time in Tecate. He revealed it was as if the players were more pumped for their trip than playing a game. It was an eye-opening experience for the team, many of whom had never been on a mission trip.

What most struck Catch outfielder/pitcher Chance Gusbeth was the contented faces of residents in an impoverished area.

“It was humbling,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to how much God has truly blessed us in the U.S. and blessed our team.”

While workers constructed the home, a vanload went out into the neighboring city to share testimonies and the gospel, inviting residents to join the small groups starting through Baja Ministries.

Back at the build site, the team constructed walls and the roof, painted, and even installed the electricity.

“It was shocking to me that we were the ones actually doing the building. And I got put in charge of electricity,” said catcher Sean Nearhoof. “I was like, ‘You’re really having me install the electricity?’”

The family—husband, wife and four children—were at the site throughout the day, helping where they could and playing in the newly constructed upper loft of the house.

Old New“They were all there and were actually trying to help build their own house,” pitcher Josh DeGraaf said. “The father was helping out- that was incredible because they wanted to do anything they could to help.”

When the home was completed, the players stood in a circle with the family. They passed the keys around and all took turns saying something to the family, whether it was a thank you for allowing them to participate in the house build, a lesson they learned from the day, or a family blessing, before handing the keys to the husband.

“Seeing how the guys responded, came together and built the house—it was a pretty impactful time,” Orr said.

The team played a few games in San Diego County on the trip to and from Tecate, but the work was the topic of conversation for the next few weeks. Nearhoof noticed it said a lot that the highlight of their summer was being able to share their time and talent with the less fortunate.

“Baseball is an avenue for a lot of things,” DeGraaf said. “We use it for ministry like we did this summer.”

He and his teammates gained a deeper understanding of what matters, knowing an ultimate purpose and how God wants to use baseball to further His kingdom.

The trip was a two-fold blessing, working in both givers’ and recipients’ lives.

As Orr says, “God always exceeds our expectations in the ministry.”

Photos courtesy of FCA Baseball